‘Line’ Items: September to Forget Edition

Not Much Worth Remembering – As September closes this week, it is clear that lawmakers already have one foot out the door; anxious to return home to campaign in an election season unlike any other. The only accomplishment that Congress can point to this month is the passage of a small business package that had been stalled for months. The one item remaining for legislators is a must-pass continuing resolution to fund government when the new fiscal year begins.

Small Business Bill Makes it Through – The president today signed the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, HR 5297. The House accepted the Senate-passed version last week. While it is technically paid for, one of the offsets is a timing gimmick that means the bill will likely add to the debt in the long run.

Stopgap Funding Measure Will Be Required – Since Congress has been unable to approve of any FY 2011 spending bills, a continuing resolution (CR) will be required to keep the federal government functioning come October 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. That will be the last major piece of business this week for Congress before it can leave town.

Tax Cut Debate Put Off – The Senate has decided to put off the contentious debate over extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts until after the election. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) had planned to release his bill last week, but leaders decided to postpone consideration. The House will likely follow suit and not attempt a vote before adjourning for the final campaign push.

No Ducking the Lame Duck – Tax cuts and appropriations bills will be considered during a post-election lame duck session of Congress. Any recommendations from the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform possibly will also be considered then, meaning some very important fiscal decisions could be made during this session.

Lawmakers Will Grill DoD on Fiscal Reforms – Defense Department officials will face questions from the Senate Armed Forces Committee on Tuesday over Secretary Gates’ plan to make the Pentagon more efficient. Gates wants the Department to find $100 billion in savings over 5 years.